Andrew Garfield spoke to an audience rich in Spider-Man fans about his career at the Red Sea Film Festival Thursday, sitting alongside Saudi producer and Red Sea Film Foundation CEO Mohammed Al Turki. The two have known each other since Garfield starred in Ramin Bahrani’s 2014 drama “99 Homes,” which Al Turki produced. “I’m currently out of work,” Garfield quipped. “So I’m just here to talk to Mo really.”
“I’m 40 years old now and I still get absolutely petrified,” Garfield said. “I have terrible impostor syndrome. I didn’t know it was a viable option to be an actor. I loved being an athlete. I hated school. I wasn’t strong enough to be a rugby player. It was my mother who suggested I look at doing something creative.”
Garfield spoke about his career from making a Doritos commercial when he was 21 to his early days in Hollywood, as part of a British invasion of talent that included Jamie Dornan, Robert Pattinson, Tom Sturridge and Charlie Cox. Garfield recalled “sharing shrimp tacos, like half each. Going out and having one drink between us all.” The hard times didn’t last too long and Garfield soon found himself on a film set for the first time in a major role co-starring with his director Robert Redford.
Garfield spoke about some of the real life characters he has embodied such as Jonathan Larson, who he played in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Tick, Tick Boom,” the writer of “Rent,” who died at the age of 36 from an aortic aneurysm the night before the first preview. “There was something very surreal that I felt was happening,” Garfield said, adding that he was quite literally haunted by the character he was playing. “I believe our ancestors are very close all the time. And I could feel that his spirit was so excited that we were going to be telling the story that he didn’t let me sleep. He didn’t let me rest. He had ideas. Nonstop. He wanted me to give notes to Lin-Manuel Miranda about the end of the film.”
Garfield compared Larson to the pacifist Desmond Dawson who he played in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge”: “He was someone who did superhuman acts during the Second World War, physically impossible acts saved an impossible amount of lives doing God’s work.”
For many in the audience, Garfield’s most beloved role will be Spider-Man, who he first played in Marc Webb’s 2012 film “The Amazing Spider-Man.” “I’ve loved Spider-Man since I was three years old,” Garfield said, recounting how he wore a Spider-Man costume when he was three years old for Halloween. “I was in the gym a lot. I ate soup and berries. I trained at Parkour and yoga. I helped with the script. I need to nourish that child who is out there watching.”
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” provided an opportunity for Garfield to tie up some loose ends with the character. “I think until all three of us were in the room rehearsing, figuring out what we were going to do, there was no way of writing it. Every single one of us had our own version of that character and we didn’t know how they were going to interact, until they were actually interacting in the room together. So it was as if you were making a low-budget short film with friends. And it was the biggest movie in the history of movies.”
As for his first trip to Saudi Arabia, Garfield had nothing but praise for his friend’s festival and the region: “I’m so excited to find out about this part of the world and forgo any preconceived notions and just see for myself.” He compared the three-year-old Red Sea Festival with Redford’s Sundance and Al Turki was keen to point out that of the nine films directed by women in the competition at Cannes this year, four of them had been funded by the Red Sea Film Foundation.
As for whether he’s upset if anyone prefers other Spider-Mans: “I’m 40 years old. If you love me, fine, and if you don’t love me, it’s your loss.”
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